Four Whanganui High School cooking students have lost count of the number of hours they've spent preparing for a regional cooking competition.
And that hard work has paid off with all four students receiving awards at the Taranaki regional NZ Chefs Association secondary school cooking competition.
Two of the students, Olivia Caird and Charlotte Taylor, both Year 13 students, have received entry to the national finals - to be held in Auckland in August - after taking out the bronze medal in the National Secondary Schools Culinary Challenge category.
Olivia and Charlotte's pumpkin-themed starter and their creative take on chicken-in-a-basket was described by the judges as "the most exciting food of the day".
Also doing well at the regional competition were Matt Hirini, who got a merit for his cheesecake. He also won silver and got best in class with his cafe-style breakfast. Sarah Hatchet got a bronze medal for her creative cupcake.
The four students have put in at least six hours a week each in the school kitchen on top of their regular school work, under the guidance of teacher Linda Hardcastle and chef mentor Dean Wong. They started planning their competition dishes at the end of last year.
"These students are all very dedicated," Mrs Hardcastle said.
"It takes a lot of work to get to this point. I'm very pleased with how they have all achieved."
Mrs Hardcastle said Olivia and Charlotte have also been responsible for testing out the school's emergency response - "I'm happy to say the school is very well prepared," Mrs Hardcastle said - by setting off the smoke alarms on more than one occasion.
"The chicken for the chicken-in-a-basket was smoked, and the students weren't allowed to prepare anything in advance. So they had to learn how to smoke the chicken themselves, and we did have a few accidents," Mrs Hardcastle said.
Mr Wong said his role was to push and challenge the students. For that reason he will not be happy unless Olivia and Charlotte bring home a silver or gold medal from the national finals - they won bronze at the national finals last year.
"I never tell them they've done well. Nothing is good unless it is perfect," Mr Wong said.